We seem to have put our dogs in a strange place emotionally. We always talk about what WE humans get from them, but rarely what we GIVE them. I hear people say they love their dog(s), but those people rarely KNOW their dog(s). To only be aware of what YOU get, but unaware of the needs and feelings, drives and desires, of the other entity is NOT a relationship. I’m not sure WHAT to call it, but it is NOT a relationship.
Ownership? Perhaps. Master? Maybe. Selfish? Possibly. Self-absorbed? Probably. Partnership? Not even close. Relationship? Never.
Not often does a person know their dog so well that they can tell what he needs, is thinking, feeling, or communicating. Thus, the human doesn’t know how to communicate clearly in return in order to create a positive relationship. Nor do most humans offer true respect for the individualism of the dog/horse/person/elephant that makes up the other half of the pair.
“Training” often sells the concept that teaching a dog how to sit, stay, come, or some other ‘trick’ or task is the basis for the human-dog successful relationship. Nope.
You and I both know that’s bogus in the extreme. If that was all there was to it, every kid would have a perfect relationship with their parents. Every spouse would be in wedded bliss for eternity.
A relationship is KNOWING the other person/animal in the relationship equation so well as to understand, without words, the emotions being experienced, evidenced, and the correct emotional responses wanted and needed in order to communicate a response — good, bad, or indifferent — at any given moment for a desired result. It is THIS paramount skill which is missing from the human-dog relationship.
This, in actuality, is true of most humans with almost ALL animals. There are exceptions. Those humans who DO know animals, who listen to them, respect them, truly interact with them as equals and partners, see in them the living, breathing embodiment of a soul, are often dubbed “whisperers”. They are not. They are people who are simply masterfully respectful of another living entity and cannot sentimentalize or fail to see, in its entirety, the other species as a distinct, unique, singular whole and deal with that animal, not as something to be trained, but as an individual with whom one must develop a solid communication, based on both general and specific personal traits of the animal, in order to achieve a solid, successful relationship.
There are very few examples of this in the dog’s world. The few that are available are rarely filmed as they occur daily in the course of work. However, thanks to a friend, I have a video of an example from the ‘horse world’.
Stacy Westfall has said that many people describe her as a “horse whisperer”, but explains it isn’t whispering… it’s listening. “Listen to your horse, understand his language, speak his language. Once you do that, the rest comes easy.” At the Tulsa Reining Classic, Stacy became the first person EVER to win the Freestyle event without tack.
Call it a bond. Call it a relationship. This video is a perfect example of two that work as one because they care and communicate. The horse is relaxed, confident, trusting, and working WITH Stacy, not being ‘told’ what to do at every juncture. And THAT? THAT is the concise definition of a great relationship in my book!